The July opening at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in Ottawa on Thursday July 3 is a shamanic healing journey. Appendix 1 of my new book Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse gives a description and background.
Appendix I: Shamanic Journey
From my intensive training with White Eagle Woman and Dawson I carefully put together a shamanic journey suitable for non-Natives. This was part of White Eagle Woman’s intent in teaching me, so her knowledge could be passed on to a wider audience. I based the healing ceremony on considerations of safety, sacredness and responsibility, and drew from two traditions that I had extensive experience with, shamanism and Buddhist meditation practices. I begin the healing ceremony with conscious breathing, so that everybody’s awareness becomes attached to in-breath and to out-breath. I emphasize the circle motif during the opening symbol of external purification where individuals gather in a circle. Burning sage is smudged over each person in a clockwise direction. During this opening process sacred Native American flute music is played softly, as people gather for the ceremony. I always encourage participants to validate their experiences from their own internal recognitions. This can be discussed and verified at the end of the ceremony through guidance from the ceremony’s shaman facilitator.
The next step is a symbol of internal purification, a simple heart centre meditation. During this meditation the sound driver changes from the opening sacred flute music to religious chants. The sound of Gregorian or Blessing Way chants accompanies this stage of the ceremony. People are instructed to fill their lungs on the in-breath and visualize white light coming in to the middle of the chest, the heart center. I tell them:
“You can visualize this as light floating gently down to the area behind the sternum, or as a funnel of light coming directly into your chest from the Universe. If you do not visualize easily, then think the light coming into your heart center. Feel this white light as a gentle glow and take it through the heart center, inside the chest and throat, up to your crown. All this is on the in-breath. At the end of the in-breath, at the top of the crown, hold the breath for a moment with a thought. The thought is: “Send this light to every cell in my body.” Then on the out-breath imagine the white light moving from your crown, filling your entire body right down to the toes. Complete the breathing cycle by grounding the energy through your feet into the earth. Do this ten times until you feel something different in your body, a different sensation or a greater feeling of relaxation. Remain within the energy of the meditation for approximately ten breaths. If thoughts distract you from the process, simply come back to the focus and direction of breath, light and word.” This meditation is a centering vehicle, as it grounds the person in their body.
For the next stage of the healing journey, I introduce two drivers used in combination. The first breathing cycle begins: deep breaths – then explosive breaths – on to death breaths – and finally a pause. It is accompanied by a different sound to that of the chants used in the prior meditation. Changes in tone and rhythm intensify the driving effect of the breathing cycle. For the initial breathing cycle I use a tonal musical driver that has an insistent, repetitive beat, the electronic synthesizer music from Chariots of Fire for instance. After the first breathing cycle is finished, everybody relaxes their breathing during the pause and prepares for the next breathing cycle. The second cycle begins and the sound driver changes to chants of the Eternal OM mantra. The final cycle of breathing is to ten minutes of repetitive drumming, after which I take a small hand drum and play it over each individual so the rhythmic sound of the drum penetrates their whole being. Each breathing cycle is associated with distinct sound drivers, synthesizer music, OM mantra, drumming. Once the last breathing cycle is complete, normal breathing ensues.
The individual by this time should be extremely relaxed and in an altered state. It is at this point that the shamanic journey begins, which introduces extended symbolic imagery and a different sound driver. For the actual journey, the participants are accompanied by nature-based music that incorporates animal and birdcalls, and other sounds drawn from the world of nature. This is played softly. I use Dan Gibson’s “Algonquin Suite” as an appropriate tonal musical driver for the healing journey.
There are many variations to a shamanic journey, into the past, into the future, under the sea, into the earth, beyond time and space, and they can be guided or non-guided. The careful preparation leading up to the journey is to ground the person in their body. This care is essential so that past fears and future anxieties that arise during the shamanic journey can be dealt with from a solid foundation. I will document only one form of guided symbolic imagery and ask the reader to suspend disbelief sufficiently to accompany me on this journey. With the Algonquin Suite playing softly in the background I start to speak:
See yourself walking through a beautiful meadow, full of flowers. You hear the sounds of insects humming, and birds singing. The sun feels warm on your face and a slight breeze ruffles your hair. As you continue walking, look up into an endlessly clear blue sky and for a moment allow yourself to merge with it and enter such clarity. (Pause)
Notice a small shape hovering in the sky that gets bigger as it comes closer to you, and see a golden eagle slowly circling above you. He is your guardian and will watch over you and keep you safe on your journey. As you walk, the meadow slowly gives way to a river that runs over rocks before eddying into deep, still pools. Follow the bank of the river in the direction of the sun. There is a path to walk along. Notice the mallard ducks at the water’s edge with their ducklings, and a kingfisher sitting patiently on a branch overhanging a deep, still pool. The sun filters through the trees at the river’s edge and the light dances on the rocks and water like a crystal cloak that shimmers and moves with every swirl and eddy. (Pause)
Walking round a bend you see that the river runs from a clear lake fringed with forests, reflecting snow-capped mountains in its still surface. Find a spot by the side of the lake, sit down and enjoy the intimacy of nature that is around you. At the end of the lake you see a cow moose with her calf at the water’s edge. In the distance you hear wolves calling to one another, then you notice two rabbits beside a shrub close by. A doe and two fawns walk slowly and tentatively from the forest into the sunlight. Skylarks hover motionless in the sky then descend to earth with their lilting song. Your eyes are drawn to a stately blue heron standing motionless in the reeds at the lake’s edge. These creatures and more are there to remind you of your connection to the world of nature. Take a moment to be with the grass, the trees, animals, birds, insects, and bring to this place your favourite animals. (Pause)
Ask one of the creatures to accompany you on your journey and wait to see which one comes forward. It does not matter if none come forward, the golden eagle still circles overhead as your guardian. (Pause)
After sitting by the lake’s edge for a while, stand up and slowly walk into the water. It is icy cold, fed by glaciers from the snow-capped mountains. But it is a cold that is easily bearable because it purifies, stripping you of your anxieties, stress and worries. Slowly walk into the water up to your hips, your chest and then submerge yourself in the icy cold embrace of purification. Underwater you can breathe and move around with ease. Notice the rays of sunlight coming into the water, fish swimming swiftly past and see the rocks and submerged tree trunks on the lake floor. As you move around and adjust to the water you see a cave at the bottom of the lake and you swim strongly and powerfully to it and enter the cave. There is light at the end of a long underwater passage and you swim through and emerge out of the water into a cavern covered in crystals. The sound from the crystals shimmers through your body. At the edge of the cavern is a waterfall. Stand underneath it and feel the water washing over and right through your body. Feel the energy of the waterfall taking away any anxiety, tension and distress you may feel inside. (Pause)
Leave the cavern and follow a trail that takes you through a pine forest. Beautiful tall pines are on either side of you, stretching up into the sky. Take a moment and see the entire blue sky endlessly clear and enter such clarity. (Pause)
Then see how the forest opens up into a large clearing with a big flat rock in the centre. There is a fire prepared for you by the rock. As you warm your hands by the fire and feel its warmth on your face, you feel a presence next to you. Turning around you see a beautiful old woman with clear brown eyes that look right into you. She smiles in welcome and you feel she knows all about you and embraces you in a simple, heartfelt love. She is a very powerful healer and a wise shaman and is there on your journey to serve you. (Pause)
Standing next to her is a handsome old man, with weathered features and a gentle smile that lights you up. From his eyes you feel an overwhelming compassion and understanding. He is a very powerful healer and a wise shaman and is there on your journey to serve you. (Pause)
Between the old man and old woman is a young woman who sparkles. She is fresh, vibrant and beautiful, aglow with life’s vitality. She also greets you with a smile, and a love and understanding that you know is unconditional. She is the feminine source of Earth Wisdom and a lightning rod for your transformation. She knows very well the suffering and chaos of modern times. She is a very powerful healer and a wise shaman and is there on your journey to serve you, particularly if you are at the crossroads of new beginnings, ready to discard the old damaging tapes you run in your mind.Her power has an infinite depth and force. (Pause)
Know that these three shamans come from the deepest part of yourself and they represent your own powers of creativity and self-healing. The three shamans approach you and invite you to speak to them. Choose who you wish to communicate with, and talk to them about whatever distresses you; the anxieties of the day, the stresses at work and at home, then if you so wish, go deeper into your distress. Talk to them about growing up, the neglect and abuse you may have experienced, the isolation, separation and lack of understanding you encountered as a young person, adolescent and adult. Talk about the damage caused to you and the damage you may have caused others. Talk about the hatreds, angers and insensitivities you experience and perpetuate. You can say anything to these three shamans. They understand and love you and are there to heal you. Talk about whatever you feel free to communicate and feel the distress and trauma leaving your body. And when you run out of things to say, just be with their loving and supportive presence. For now, open up and speak to one of these immensely powerful shamans placed on your path. (Pause)
Ask each one of them if they would transfer their power of creativity, understanding and healing to your awareness. And of course they agree. Look into the eyes of each one of them in turn and feel the transfer of their healing power with a jolt or energy circulation within your body. Thank them for this gift then ask if you could speak to someone from the other side. Someone who has passed on that you did not have the opportunity to say what you wanted to say, or hear what you would have liked to hear. Wait and see if anyone comes and do not be disappointed if nothing happens. It is not the time. (Pause)
Take your leave of the three shamans. Thank them for their support, love and power of healing. Turning round you see a beautiful child surrounded with a golden aura. This golden child is you, without trauma, wounds or damage. The child comes directly to you and takes your hand, and leads you to a cliff edge where the beautiful golden eagle is waiting for you. He has been there as a guardian throughout your journey and is now ready to take you home. (Pause)
Ask your golden child if he or she wants to come with you, then climb onto the back of the eagle, and feel him take off from the ledge and soar high on the updrafts. Below you, see the mountains, lakes and forests of your journey. Smoke curls lazily skyward from the fire by the rock and as you fly with the eagle feel how beautiful this earth is. Then when you feel ready to do so, part from the eagle and fly on your own with your golden child next to you. With your arms spread wide as wings, catch the air currents and soar, then swoop low over the streams and mountains and enjoy the strength of flying on your own as your golden child merges with you as one unified being. (Pause)
Slowly fly back to the edge of the lake where you were sitting. Once again notice the animals, birds and insects and see how happy they are to see you again. Sit there for a time. (Pause)
Now see yourself sitting or lying down in the healing circle. Form a circle of brilliant white light around where you are sitting or lying down, then step through the light and slowly return to your body. Breathe deeply on the in-breath and deeply on the out-breath. As you breathe in, say quietly to yourself: “I have arrived.” As you breathe out, say quietly to yourself: “I am home.” Continue to do this breathing exercise for at least five minutes or until you feel “arrived” and “home” in your body.
After the safe return I conduct a final meditation with light. A tray of lighted candles is passed round the circle in a clockwise direction. Each person in turn, acknowledges the light and healing in the next person from the light and healing that is in them. The internal dialogue with the shamans at the rock is with the powerful inner material of creative self-healing that exists in everyone. Throughout the breathing cycles and journey other material from the depths of consciousness will surface. It is essential to be aware and dialogue with it, so the energy of trauma is steadily diminished. Participants are made fully aware that distress may come to the surface. These aspects of interior suffering cannot be left there on their own, as they may be dangerous and destructive both for the individual and others they will inevitably project onto. It is necessary to bring to the surface the awareness of mindfulness and the power of self-healing to take care of the trauma. Then an individual can begin to see deeply and take the steps to transform the energy of trauma. The final meditation with light acknowledges that there is more to consciousness than trauma, suffering, blockages and energy “sinks.” There are seeds of happiness, joy and grace that acknowledge the inherent Divinity within everyone. The acknowledgement in the final meditation nurtures these seeds in consciousness and creates a crucial finale to the healing journey.